Why the New Orleans Saints should absolutely draft a kicker in 2016

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Dec 31, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Florida State Seminoles place kicker Roberto Aguayo (19) in action against the Houston Cougars in the fourth quarter in the 2015 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome. Houston defeated Florida State 38-24. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 31, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Florida State Seminoles place kicker Roberto Aguayo (19) in action against the Houston Cougars in the fourth quarter in the 2015 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome. Houston defeated Florida State 38-24. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /
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Oct 4, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive back Tyler Patmon (26) celebrates after New Orleans Saints kicker Zach Hocker (2) misses a field goal during the fourth quarter pushing the game to overtime at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints won 26-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 4, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive back Tyler Patmon (26) celebrates after New Orleans Saints kicker Zach Hocker (2) misses a field goal during the fourth quarter pushing the game to overtime at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints won 26-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports /

If there’s been one sore spot for the New Orleans Saints since Sean Payton first arrived in 2006, it’s been the kicker position.

Many might laugh and brush aside the notion of using a draft pick on a kicker. After all, what’s the point right? The greatest needs lie on defense, but I’d quickly challenge your thought process.

For starters, here’s the kicking carousel the Saints have gone through under Sean Payton’s tenure:

  • 2006 – John Carney (42) / Billy Cundiff (26)
  • 2007 – Martin Gramatica (32) / Olindo Mare (34)
  • 2008 – Martin Gramatica (33) / Garrett Hartley (22) / Taylor Mehlhaff (23)
  • 2009 – John Carney (45) / Garrett Hartley (23)
  • 2010 – John Carney (46) / Garrett Hartley (24)
  • 2011 – John Kasay (42)
  • 2012 – Garrett Hartley (26)
  • 2013 – Garrett Hartley (27) / Shayne Graham (36)
  • 2014 – Shayne Graham (37)
  • 2015Zach Hocker (24) / Kai Forbath (28)

A total of 10 different kickers have come through the Saints organization on their active roster from 2006-2015, and that’s not counting the changes made when going back to players like John Carney and Garrett Hartley. We’re also not counting battles that had the likes of Dustin Hopkins and Derek Dimke.

It gets way worse for the black and gold, as the players brought in weren’t so efficient at kicking. The Saints have a collective accuracy of 79.3 percent in 10 seasons (214-for-270).

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 12.46.29 PM
Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 12.46.29 PM /

As you can see, the Saints had their worst kicking season in 2007 (68.2 percent), and their best coincidentally in Sean Payton’s first season (88.5 percent).

The Saints could opt for free agency to look for a new kicker in 2016, as appetizing finds like Baltimore’s Justin Tucker, Green Bay’s Mason Crosby, and St. Louis’ Greg Zuerlein are out there now. You could even make the argument for New York Giants’ Josh Brown, who finished 30-for-32 (93.8 percent) in 2015. However, that’s about where it stops. Inconsistent kickers like Nick Novak, Randy Bullock, and Shayne Graham are other options, and older veterans like Adam Vinatieri and Phil Dawson could hang it up.

Oct 3, 2015; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils place kicker Ross Martin (35) kicks the ball for a field goal against the Boston College Eagles at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 3, 2015; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils place kicker Ross Martin (35) kicks the ball for a field goal against the Boston College Eagles at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports /

There are currently two prospects that should catch the eye of the Saints front office, and that’s Florida State’s Roberto Aguayo and Duke’s Ross Martin.

Despite a down season, Seminoles kicker Roberto Aguayo is the most accurate kicker in NCAA history. His nearly 97 percent accuracy is incredibly impressive, but it’s his accuracy inside of 40 yards that is most intriguing. He was perfect in 2015 (16-for-16) from 40 yards or less, and that bodes well for the league’s new extra point rule. Aguayo does have long-range, and drew high marks in the respect group for his leadership on and off the field.

As a rising prospect, Blue Devils kicker Ross Martin is certainly one to keep an eye on. Not only did Martin hit his two field goals at the Senior Bowl (40 and 48 yards), but also drilled a 60-yard kick in practice with ease. He did that despite bad weather conditions. Needless to say, he is on the New Orleans Saints radar. Martin wasn’t as accurate as Aguayo, as he went 78-for-93 (83.9 percent) in four seasons.

A franchise kicker does so many things for your team, and rarely gets the credit he deserves. However, if you are lucky enough to find one, then you have to consider the possibilities. If for some reason the New Orleans Saints roll the dice on grabbing a prospect like Martin as an undrafted rookie free agent, then it could be the ultimate payoff. On the flip side, Aguayo is likely to cost a 3rd round pick at least.

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